LONDON DATING AGENCIES FOR PROFESSIONALS
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CODE OF PRACTICE FOR INTRODUCTION AGENCIES
A Code drawn up by the Association of British Introduction Agencies
Forward by Council of A.B.I.A.
In October 1981 the Association of British Introduction Agencies was created,
at the instigation of the Office of Fair Trading, in response to genuine
concern about the conduct of dating and introduction agencies. The ABIA is
now recognised generally as the authoritative voice of the introduction industry
with its members providing a reputable and ethical service. In the absence,
so far, of any official legislation, we strive to create a greater public
and media awareness of our service, to raise standards across all of the
industry and enhance the image of our industry. Whilst it would be quite
wrong to infer that all non-member agencies are questionable, it is a sad
fact that many are – not so much through lack of integrity but through
a lack of resources and commercial acumen. The industry is plagued by the
growth of short-lived agencies whose founders expect rich returns from poorly
researched and funded businesses, with many lasting no longer than a few
short weeks. The services provided by agencies are particularly personal
ones, and it is very helpful that consumers having problems with the services
can have access under the code to procedures for resolving the problems,
including independent arbitration if necessary. This is an area where consumers
have the strongest need for adequate and clear information about the services
being offered before any commitment is entered into. The code provisions
addressing these are valuable. Consumers need to have confidence that a code
of practice will deliver what it promises, and the independent mechanism
set up to enforce this code is able to do this.
Association of British Introduction Agencies.
Suite 109, 315 Chiswick High Road, London W4 4HH
Tel: 0208 742 0386 www.abia.org.uk
Aims of the Association
1. To monitor, regulate and improve
the standard of service offered to members of the public.
2. To act as an intermediary between
the industry and the public (including, for example, the
media) in respect of agencies’ practice.
3. To represent the industry in dealings
4. To collect and evaluate information
concerning United Kingdom Introduction agencies, whether
members or otherwise. This Code of Practice is
designed to further these aims and will be updated as occasion demands. The
Principles set out here are not intended to interpret, qualify or supplant
the law of the land. They apply only to transactions with consumers. The
Association considers that its members have a duty to accept the Code in
its entirety. If clients feel dissatisfied with their treatment by a member
they have a right to take this up with the Association and, if not resolved,
an independent scheme set up in conjunction with an independent panel of
Standards of Practice
(All members of the Association have accepted these Standards of Practice)
Before any fees are paid or interviews conducted, or any
binding commitment entered into, a prospective client shall
be given a copy of this Code of Practice, together with
a clear and Introduction and Dating Agencies: These agencies
must make it clear that their primary objective is simply
to facilitate introductions. It must be clearly stated
whether or not an interview is to be conducted with the
clients and whether or not all clients are
(A) OBJECTIVE AND METHOD OF INTRODUCTION USED
a1. Marriage Bureaux: At the outset,
marriage bureaux must make it clear that their primary
objective is to help clients find marriage partners.
be clearly stated whether or not an interview is to be conducted with the
client and whether or not all clients are interviewed.
a2. Introduction and Dating Agencies: These agencies must
make it clear that their primary objective is simply to facilitate introductions.
It must be
clearly stated whether or not an interview is to be conducted and whether
or not all clients are interviewed.
a3. ‘Lists’ Method: this
must be described in detail to prospective clients.
(B) ELIGIBILITY FOR MARRIAGE. Bureaux
must state whether or not membership is restricted to
those current unmarried. Where membership
is so restricted applicants should be asked provide a signed statement that
they are legally free to marry
(C) CRITERIA USED FOR MATCHING. The criteria
used for matching clients must be fully explained. Clients
must be told whether stated
preferences will be fully adhered to or whether they will be treated as general
(D) NUMBERS OF INTRODUCTIONS, ETC. Agencies
shall give individual applicants, upon request, a realistic
indication of the number of
introductions they are likely to be offered during their period of membership,
given their particular circumstances and stated preferences. Upon
request, the agency shall tell the client how many people they have available
for introduction in the client’s age group and area at any time. If
bureau offers other services (e.g. social events for single people) a realistic
indication of the likely extent of these must be given, subject to
individual agencies terms and conditions listed in their contracts.
(E) FEES CHARGED. All fees charged should
be clearly stated, including any additional charges, which
made for interviews, further introductions, etc., or upon marriage. It should
be made clear whether or not such
fees include VAT
(F) REFUNDS Agencies should offer clients
the choice of either a refund proportionate to the amount
of service received or an
extension of membership if they are unable to provide the level of service
indicated initially. This criteria will apply at the end of the
membership period only.
2. All agencies must have an office
set aside for the exclusive use of the agency that clients
and other interested members of the public can easily
identify, locate and visit. Each agency must have a listed telephone number
that the public can, during normal working hours, use to speak to
someone in authority within that agency.
3. The agency must show to the satisfaction
of the Council of the A.B.I.A. that the agency has a client
base, which is reasonably balanced in terms of
age and sex to enable them to realistically offer clients an adequate selection
4. All information obtained from clients
shall be treated in the strictest of confidence and all
legal provisions governing the protection of data will
followed. It is incumbent upon all member agencies to give guidance (and
advice) to their clients regarding standards and codes of behaviour. The
lists of names and addresses of clients must remain the property of the member
company and must not be sold, lent, hired, or used for any purpose
other than as part of their introduction service. Bureaux shall ensure that
clients are removed from their lists of members immediately they so
5. All information supplied by the client
to the agency shall not be divulged, without the prior
consent of the client, to any other person or party except
those of the agency’s members who have agreed beforehand to have their
details given to other members of the agency.
6. In the unlikely event of an agency
belonging to the Association ceasing to trade, the agency
will, with the client’s consent, arrange for the
portion of any membership to be transferred, free of charge, to another member
agency that offers a comparable service.
7. All members shall prominently indicate
in their literature that they are a member of the Association
and show its address alongside.
1. No member shall publish advertisements
that are inaccurate, ambiguous, exaggerated or liable to
be misconstrued. All advertising by members must comply
with the codes and standards set by the Advertising Standards
Authority and the ITC and Radio Authority, and with the
requirements of any legislation currently in force. It
must be realistic and avoid arousing expectations that
cannot be fulfilled.
2. Advertisements must not contain the
words ‘guarantee’ or ‘guaranteed’ unless
the full terms of such undertakings as well as the remedial
action open to a customer are either clearly set out in
the advertisement or are available to the customer in writing
before any monies are paid.
3. The price quoted shall be the price
at which the client can participate fully in a member’s
services. Members must therefore quote the relevant price
for their service, plus any additional charge that may
reasonably arise (including VAT). If the quoted price excludes
any part of the service, such exclusions must be clearly
1. Members of the Association must ensure
that effective and immediate action is taken to achieve
just settlement of a complaint. To this end there will
be an easily identifiable and accessible arrangement for
the reception and handling of complaints from clients.
2. All members should maintain an analysis
of justified complaints in relation to any of the provisions
of the Code of Practice and should take action based on
this information to improve their service to the client.
3. When complaints are raised through
a third party (e.g. Trading Standards Officer or a Citizens
Advice Bureau), willing guidance must be given to that
body and every attempt should be made to re-establish direct
communication with the complaining client and to reach
a satisfactory settlement with them.
4. In the event that a complaint is
not resolved, members of the Association must make it clear
to clients that they have the right to refer the complaint
to the Association.
5. Members will give every assistance
to the Association whilst it is investigating a complaint.
6. Where the A.B.I.A. considers the
conciliation procedure has failed to resolve the dispute
it will give the member company 14 days’ notice of
this decision, in which time the company may take steps
to resolve the issue. In the absence of its being resolved
within that period the A.B.I.A. will inform the client
of their right to seek resolution of their complaint under
special low-cost arbitration arrangements administered
by the independent arbitrators. This independently run
scheme, however, is not suitable for more complex disputes;
the arbitrators or the A.B.I.A. can advise on whether or
not a case is appropriate. Under these arrangements, arbitration
will normally be on the basis of documents only. The award
of such arbitration is final, legally binding and enforceable.
The client will be advised also that they can, alternatively,
take legal action through the courts.
Compliance with the Code of Practice
1. Regular random checks are made by
Officers of the Association on members to ensure that literature
given to the public confirms to the Code
and does not use language or arguments, which might well lead to unrealistic
expectations on behalf of the prospective clients.
2. All complaints, or other incidents
involving non-compliance with the Code, are recorded and
examined by a Sub-Committee of the Council, which
consists of a majority of independent persons co-opted to the Council. They
are empowered to censure member agencies for non-compliance, to
direct compliance and, if necessary, to terminate the member agency’s
membership of the Association.
3. An analysis of all complaints under the Code shall
be made on an annual basis.
updated AUGUST 2013